A letter to my Mother:
I'm having a very hard time right now. That much you've seen. I've been depressed and unemployed. I've been unsure of my future. I've been heartbroken in ways that I just can't explain to you. You'd understand if the circumstances resembled the idea of love you accept. Now, I've been told that you probably know certain things, and can accept more than I can imagine, and I'd like to believe that was the case, but I'm skeptical. Skeptical in no small part because you felt that the mild innuendo in Forrest Gump was too racy for a thirteen year old. We were all younger then, but that is still a conversation for a later time, possibly to take place in a different spiritual plane.
You asked me in the car one day if I was listening to what John McCain was saying. If, you asked, you would listen to John McCain, do you think you'd be convinced by him? I bit my tongue in various ways that day, because I didn't want to give you a litany of reasons why you're voting yet again on the wrong side of history. I spoke a small piece to you, but kept most of it inside. I rage it all out on Facebook or here, and get tendentious with teenagers and twenty-somethings, because fuck 'em if they can't take it or think I'm a blowhard.
I literally can't tell you that I had my heart broken last year, because a boy broke that heart (and I was plainly asking for it), and you may never understand or accept that. That level of reality exists in a place that doesn't often vote Republican.
You've voted for two criminal presidents so far, and it seems to me that the only thing you could say in McCain/Bush's defense was, "don't you think they've kept us safe?"
I learned a long time ago that safety probably didn't exist, Mom. If you still live in Nixonland, I can't argue with you to get you out of it. My faith in the idea that your giant powers of denial and repression will be able to withstand certain revelations about me is small. You've needed those powers of denial and repression to handle unspeakable darkness that's confronted all of us. You truly protected us from it. Kept us safe. That's how I know what safe looks like. Still, I can't vote with you, because I'd be voting against myself, but how do I say that to you?
There are other reasons, beyond the personal, in fact, a multitude of reasons, many of them iterated by people smarter than me. Here's the one I've been tooling around with in my head, in light of the recent crop of suburban children who are growing up without the skills, drive, or goals to get anything done in this world:
We live in Oak Ridge. That should give us a deep, historical, almost bodily understanding of the way science shapes the world, society, dreams, goals, and fears. Republicans are an assault on science. We assault science at our own peril. Do we really need an arms race to motivate us into outer space? A conservative arms race shook hands with the progressive, scientific curiosity of the time. Thirteen years before I was born, we beat the world to the moon. Little boys and girls everywhere looked up at their television sets and had the same thought all at once: "I could be an astronaut." Some of them became astronauts. Most of them hit the books and became adults.
I'm trying to imagine what this place would look like if minority children of all stripes were to wake up one day, turn on their televisions, and discover that they too could be President if they worked hard enough. That, deep down, is why plenty of people won't vote for Obama. That's why we've got to win.